Letter 35

• 35. Caroline to Luise Gotter in Gotha: Göttingen, 6 February 1783

Göttingen, 6 Febr[uary] 1783

|68| I come to you today with peace and joy. Receive me with an empathetic heart, my precious Louise, for I may expect my brother to return in six months; my heart is beating so, my tears of joy flowing — only in your own arms, after a long separation, have you seen me this way.

These entire four, eternal years I have been anxious about everything, hoping and fearing that a time might come when I would be rewarded for everything, the sort of moment that comes but once in an entire lifetime. That time is here, and that moment will come! will come! And yet I fear it, I fear the excess of joy it will bring! —

Ah, but let me be silent, my dear Louise. I know not what to do with my own heart, caught up as it is in the giddiness of a thousand images and feelings, it cannot be described in words, nor may it be described.

Madam Meiners brought me the first news about the peace, [1] and I promised I would remember her for it even on my death bed. That evening she gave a souper for a company of young ladies and gentlemen, and we all celebrated the peace. Although it was a heady celebration, I could still find neither words nor song for my own joy. Only now has my joy found them. And how good it does me to see such joy everywhere around me as well. I am not the only one expecting a brother. Many other brothers, indeed many other fathers and sons and loved ones are also returning. And yet — few are being expected with such anticipation.

Are you also happy with me, my Louise? Really for me, and for my sake? I cannot possibly deal with it by myself. I am asking everyone to help me.

|69| On Sunday I received a letter from Wilhelmine that was quite entertaining and really, really made me laugh a lot, for I can imagine nothing more ridiculous than to be abducted like that. Indeed, even were it more serious and someone secretly whisked me off to Gotha in a chaise, I would not resist. [2] Sometimes I long for Gotha with such melancholy, not necessarily for the pleasantness of the place itself, but simply to see my friends, to see you again, and to be able to thank you for your lasting friendship with the kind of tenderness and warmth no quill can express, and where a glance, an embrace always says so much more than even a thousand words. How sweet it is to be loved, and no heart feels it more, none is more grateful, none will return love for love more than my own.

Madam Schläger wrote me about a diary kept by Friederike Münter, [3] advising me — were I curious — to ask you for it. I was indeed curious and was about to ask you when I realized that a hundred steps are, after all, closer than 11 miles [4] and that Madam Less would doubtless have it as well. Because I knew it was more or less being treated as a secret, I asked in a roundabout way; she could not deny that she did indeed have it, and since I hoped to get it from you in any case, she gave it to me under the seal of secrecy, a seal Caroline never breaks.

I read it today and here, too, found the good character and excellent heart I value most in her. Her devotion to persons whom I also call my own friends made her even dearer to me than ever. I am able and certainly do share the feelings she has when she speaks about Louise, and when she listens with delight to Gotter reading aloud.

Is it not strange that we did not get to know and like each other better when one considers that precisely the persons to whom she became most attached both here and |70| in Gotha are in fact my own best friends? The setting in which I saw her cast the wrong light on her for me, at least regarding the aspect I found most noticeable. I misjudged her modesty, of which she genuinely has a great deal despite her many talents, and who knows what made her misjudge me. —

I cannot really say that the rest of her diary entirely pleased me. There seems to be so much repetition and so many statements even she does not always understand because she has not herself come up with them or really thought them, having borrowed them instead from poets who seem to be floating about in her memory such that she takes them to be herself. She has managed to lift herself into a wonderfully lilting, poetic disposition, and nothing is more pardonable given that she is still so young; but it does need to be moderated; her heart needs to be made more secure and her understanding sharper.

The former would then lose that particular element of softness that so easily degenerates into affected sentimentality, and the latter its oddness. To me she seemed in general to have more talent than understanding, if by understanding one means the ability to judge people and things according to their true (unpoetic) nature, something Madam Less and Therese confirm. Please forgive me, dear Louise, for moralizing over her so excessively, but she is doubtless worth it considering she is your friend and is on the whole a girl who certainly possesses the considerable gifts to become something quite excellent.

Perhaps you can now clear some things up for me. I cannot figure out who the S—dt are in Braunschweig, who S—m and her cousins are in Gotha, and who Sophie, with whom she was traveling, and who Auguste von W. [4a] The rest does not really interest me, since I already recognize those who are of interest. E.g., Leisewitz and Jerusalem, the latter of whom recently wrote to my father inquiring about my brother, namely, about the charming |71| young man, he writes, whom he would never forget, to whom he was always sending so many greetings in America, who had stolen his heart. It was a splendid letter, written so beautifully indeed that one could see that his mind is not aging at all. My brother always liked his youngest daughter best, thinking the others almost too proud. . . .

Canon Meyer returned a few weeks ago from his trip through Switzerland and Germany. He surprised us on the queen’s birthday, [5] which we were just celebrating with a dance here in the house with more guests in attendance than usual. He had already spent several hours over at the Böhmers’ house when I was summoned over and found him there, and we triumphantly accompanied him back up here.

Since then we have had many pleasant outings, except that we are yearning so for snow; what we have now, however, is spring weather, en dépit de nous. [6] Meyer has become quite cultured, is a charming man — and also beloved. For why should one conceal what words, countenance, and works betray about a person daily, indeed, hourly. When he returns from his next trip through France and Italy, he will become engaged to Fr B, and after a year in Hamburg will even be marrying her.

Kiss your dear children in my name, little Pauline a dozen times because she is allegedly like her father, but then Cäcilie at least a half dozen more because she is already like her mother. Just how precious, how dear her dear father’s friendship is to me — well, you can doubtless relate that both to yourself and to him as well.

Think often of me and my joy, my dear.



[1] The Peace of Paris (consisting of Britain’s Treaty of Paris with the United States, preliminary articles being settled on 30 November 1782; and Britain’s Treaties of Versailles with France and Spain, preliminary articles being settled on 20 January 1783), finalized in Paris on 3 September 1783. Back.

[2] Gotha is located ca. 90 km southeast of Göttingen (Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch [Augsburg 1795]):


Fr. chaise at the time was understood to be “a Sort of light Chariot for one, two or four Horses” (Adelung 1 [1796], 522, s.v.); here in two representative illustrations ([1] R. L. L., Promenade du Parvenu et du Rentier [Paris 1797]; British Museum; [2] “Rükkehrender Comissar einer neufränkischen Armee,” Revolutions-Almanach für 1802):



Since Wilhelmine Bertuch’s letter is apparently no longer extant, Caroline’s allusion to an “abduction” that made her laugh must unfortunately remain obscure.

In 1781 the engraver Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki did a series of tongue-in-cheek illustrations portraying how various types of men might make proposals of marriage (an ill man, an officer, a windbag, a pedant, a schoolmaster, a miser, a dance instructor, etc.); one of those illustrations — that of a seducer — depicts just such a romanticized “abduction” (Heiraths Antrag des Entführers [1781]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Signatur DChodowiecki AB 3.373):


Here a similar illustration from Retif (or Restif) de la Bretonne, Les contemporaines; ou, Avantures des plus jolies femmes de l’âge présent, 42 vols. in 12 (Leipsick 1780–85), vol. 6 [1780], 536:



[3] Although Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:679, suggests that the diary composed by Friederike Brun-Münter probably existed only in manuscript form, Albert Leitzmann, “Aus Karolinens Lebenskreisen”, 127–28, points out that this diary, which she kept during a trip with her father to Hamburg, Göttingen, and Weimar in 1782, was in fact a private printing intended for family and friends. As a young girl she came to her family’s ancestral home of Gotha and was an acquaintance of the family of Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter. Back.

[4] 11 old German miles = approx. 51–52 miles, or 83 kilometers. Back.

[4a] Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch (Augsburg 1795):



[5] Although Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whom George III of Britain married on 8 September 1761, was born on 19 May 1744, the British queen’s birthday was always celebrated in January, just as the king’s was always celebrated in June. Back.

[6] Fr., “in spite of us.” Back.

Translation © 2011 Doug Stott